How to Save Money on Food When Traveling

While a lot of frugality articles focus on the art of saving money on food during travels abroad, few tackle the subject of how to keep things cheap during the actual travel—while moving through places like airports, planes, buses, trains, and the various terminals one might encounter. On any trip longer than a few hours, these in-between spaces can add up to big bucks.

It’s worth looking at a few strategies for lowering costs while moving around. I have some simple, but rarely practiced ideas to get you started:

  • Eat just before leaving, and plan to eat on arrival. Your best bet for cheap food is to eat home (whether yours or someone else’s), or at the very least somewhere outside the airport or tourist district. Try to eat a filling, healthy meal capable of holding you over to your destination.
  • Skip eating during travel, even on longer flights. Some research now suggests that avoiding all foods during a long trip that crosses time zones, and eating breakfast at the appropriate time at your destination, can be the fastest way to beat jet lag. Airplane food is also taste-free, makes many people gassy, and can often cost additional money.
  • Buy water at the airport. Unfortunately, water is one of those things which won’t make it through security, and altitude is notorious for making you dehydrated. If you buy anything at the airport, make it a large bottle of water, even if it’s four bucks. Water will have the added benefit of fighting off hunger during the trip.
  • Invest in a mini-cooler. Something so small that it can only hold a few sandwiches might be more than enough, or go with one size larger to hold a bottled water or soda. Buy a set of flexible freezer “blankets” like those made by Rubbermaid, which can be cut down to size so you only take as many as you need and can stuff them between foods.
  • Pack your foods carefully. If you choose to take food on the trip with you, avoid anything that will trip off security at the airport (most things won’t, but you never know), and things that are overly fragrant and will annoy every passenger within 12 seats of you. Tuna and curry are obvious no-nos.
  • Choose dry snacks. If bringing a cooler is not your thing, pack non-perishable snacks that have some nutritional value. Nuts are a healthy, high-calorie snack that won’t make a mess and will keep you full. If they’re available on your flight, ask for an extra bag to hold you over.

By doing a bit of pre-planning before your trip and not leaving food during travel to chance, you have an opportunity to save money money for what you really want–your destination. Don’t get suckered into paying the high prices at the airport by using some of the tips I’ve mentioned.

Do you have any other ideas I’ve missed?

Photo by emrank